A saxophonist, a Charlie Chaplin impressionist, a Hare Krishna dance troupe and even an angel greeted me as I wandered beneath fairy-lit chestnut trees towards the city hall.
Outside the Opera Theatre, young couples held hands by the fountain, its spurts changing colour in the floodlights. Families strolled among statues, pensioners flopped on benches and restaurants filled as the balmy evening embraced darkness.
I soaked up this atmosphere on a pub terrace, my euphoria heightened by beer costing little more than a pound a pint.
Odessa, on the Black Sea, was nothing like I had imagined. Ten days later, I felt the same about Ukraine as a whole. Between myself and dinner were the 177-year-old Potemkin Steps, all 192 of them. One of Ukraine’s emblems, they link the city and sea. The beat of a rock band followed me to where my ship, Viking Sineus, was docked.
I was on Viking’s Kiev to the Black Sea cruise, which I did in reverse. From 2020 guests will enjoy an extended trip, with the ship sailing to or from Tulcea near the Romanian coast and a night at a Bucharest hotel. Essentially, Sineus is used as a floating hotel in Odessa and Kiev, with a short Black Sea passage and a 549-mile cruise on Dnieper river linking the two cities.
I had half-expected to find an understandably cautious, perhaps brittle, people in Ukraine after the recent troubles in Crimea and the Russian border provinces. We learned this history on board through a lecture in which two crew members movingly told of their own harrowing experiences. Yet everywhere I came across a welcoming, optimistic, courteous society; locals stop strangers for a chat and teenagers listen intently to violinists on a bandstand.
5 random facts about Ukraine
- According to the Traveler’s Digest, Kiev is home to the most beautiful women in the country.
- The invention of the first gas lamp took place in Lviv.
- The country is the second largest in Europe after Russia.
- Ukraine hosts up to seven UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the primeval beech forests of the Carpathians.
- It has one of the largest armies in Europe.
What else to read about Ukraine
Thank you for your interest in Ukraine and we hope that you will love this country even more when you will visit it.
There are many exhibition centres and art galleries in the Kyiv city for lovers of contemporary art and modern style.
They are almost always open for tourists with sophisticated taste and are ready to share the bright impressions.
In Kyiv you can spend time with your family with fun and pleasure: hiking to museums, amusement and attractions park; participation in family festivals and events.
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